Despite getting slightly confused by the layout of West Smithfield (as usual) I had a really lovely evening in Cellar Gascon a few nights ago, and must recommend it to anyone in the area looking for a sophisticated tipple and Michelin quality snacks.
I don’t know where to start with reviewing Pétrus, so with odd logic I’ve decided to start at the end: it was one of the loveliest meals I’ve had, a fabulous evening with beautiful food and quiet, attentive service, and great company and I wish I could go back every week.
As part of my Christmas present my lovely fiancé promised me dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant of my choice – a brilliant present given I love eating out, but obviously probably wouldn’t book super-expensive restaurants very often at all. I chose Pétrus following a recent grudging fondness for Gordon Ramsay, an ongoing crush on Marcus Wareing and recommendations from various bloggers. So off we went!
Pétrus is in London’s posh Knightsbridge area, is owned by Ramsay, was run by Wareing under whom it gained 2 Michelin stars, and is now headed by Sean Burbage, another Ramsay protégé who by most accounts is doing a fabulous job. The restaurant is dominated by a huge wine cellar in the middle, and the setting is formal with white tablecloths, thick carpet and a hushed atmosphere.
There are set menu options available but we opted for the a la carte. We were served an amuse bouche of tiny crackers with smooth, rich mushroom pate, miniature mushrooms on toast and tiny pieces of sweetbread served on sticks in their own smoker, followed by a pre-starter course of creamy butternut squash velouté with oats and crème fraiche. These were a lovely touch and set the scene for some heroic starters and mains.
We ordered the Alaskan and Cornish crab with yuzu and lemongrass consommé – the crab was delicious, so flavoursome and complimented perfectly by the Asian tang of lemongrass and yuzu. We also had the Aberdeen Angus tartare with truffle and quail’s egg, which was served like a beautiful little garden, to the point where I felt quite bad eating it. That was short lived though, as was the dish – the meat was soft and ideal with the tiny pickles and mushrooms, and I could’ve easily polished it off again.
For mains we went for Anjou pigeon with smoked onion purée, served with a mini pigeon pie on the side; the pie made the dish, it was so strong and smoky, with perfectly cooked meat. The main dish was beautifully presented and the various incarnations of onion kept it interesting. And honestly, what isn’t made better with a little pie?! The loin of venison was also incredible, cooked perfectly pink and served with braised celery filled with bread sauce, truffle and little fried sweetbreads, with a rich, shiny jus over the meat. The venison was out of this world, it absolutely melted, and the other elements were fun, delicious and pretty much perfect.
I’m a bit of a cheese freak (who isn’t) so the idea of a CART of cheese was too good to resist. The waiter was very patient while I dithered and eventually chose ash-coated goat’s cheese, a creamy dolcelatte, hard French sheep’s cheese and soft camembert-like one to finish off. I wish I could remember what they were all called but I was excited and impatient to dig in so admittedly wasn’t paying enough attention. Suffice to say they were all amazing.
Ian went for a coconut ice cream with pineapple granita, chargrilled pineapple and little blobs of creamy coconut sauce. Imagine a pina colada if it was made solid and touched by angels and you’re there. We finished off with little ice cream balls served in dry ice, a great note to finish on.
Service was as you’d expect from a Michelin starred restaurant – discreet, unobtrusive and almost reverent. It seems as if personality is something that is discouraged among staff though; I understand that fine dining is serious business in these parts, but they could have been a bit more smiley perhaps.
I’m not sure exactly what the bill came to as I was being treated, but I’m sure it was upwards of £200. Certainly not what you want to be spending on dinner every week, or month for that matter. But for a very occasional special lunch or dinner Pétrus is a gorgeous, romantic restaurant that I will be recommending to everyone I speak to.
I must have walked past Le Garrick about 700 times (literally – twice a day for a year give or take) and finally got round to visiting this week with my fiancé’s family. It’s a gorgeous, atmospheric place with a lovely story – it’s been running for 25 years, but was taken over 8 years ago by the manager Dominika and Frenchman Charles who was previously a regular. Charles sent the head chef Rocco to SW France to train with none other than his mum, so on the menu you’ll find nothing but hearty, traditional French fare direct from Toulouse.
There are a few tables at ground level but most of the restaurant is down a spiral staircase into the cellar, where there are various nooks and crannies to settle into. We were seated quickly and served by various friendly, lively French staff.
I started with the Escargots de Bourgogne – snails to you and me. They were delicious – not at all chewy or slimy, but swimming in butter, salty and very garlicky, just how I like.. well, pretty much anything. There was soft, chewy, crusty baguette to soak up all the juice, which was almost as good as the meat itself, and more butter to put on the bread. Heaven. I also tasted the moules marinière (more garlic, also herby and winey, big and tender) and pâté, which had a nice strong meaty flavour and chunky texture.
I tackled the Coquelet (whole baby chicken) for the main, and while it was cooked so it was lovely and moist with a flavoursome tomato sauce, the portion was huge. I also tried the Confit de Canard, lovely duck confit with a heart bean stew – gorgeous flavours and again, a huge portion.
Dinner came to about £30 per head for 2/3 generous courses, so great value for the West End, and they finished off with a complimentary digestif of a prune liqueur – perhaps not the particular spirit that I’d choose again (!) but a nice touch, and I’d highly recommend the whole experience.
*Excuse some of the pics – it was atmospheric (dark)